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NEW YORK CITY ATTACHES CRIMINAL PENALTIES TO DRIVERS WHO HIT PEDESTRIANS

April 27, 2015
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A recent New York City law which was enacted last year makes it a crime for a motorist to hit a pedestrian or cyclist, who is in the cross walk, with the right of way. As part of the Mayor’s Vision Zero initiative, the City of New York enacted the right of way law. The law was intended to reduce the amount of fatalities caused by pedestrians and cyclists who were hit by vehicles.

This new law came under controversy which the MTA’s bus driver’s union protesting it after a bus driver was arrested after a fifteen year old pedestrian was run over by a bus, and sustained serious injuries. The teenager was pinned under the bus and sustained serious leg injuries, even though she had the right of way to cross the street and the right to expect that the bus would yield to her. The bus driver’s union is fighting to amend the law to exempt bus drivers. Our New York City bus accident lawyers think that this attempt to make bus drivers above the law is shameful. In 2014, alone, nine pedestrians were killed by buses in New York City, which underscores the need for bus drivers who are on the road all day to be more careful. The safety of New York pedestrians, especially children is at stake. Our bus accident lawyers also feel that an amendment to the law is unnecessary because the law already provides a defense that makes the incident not criminal if the contact was not the result of a failure to exercise due care. As such, this law is not an unfair strict liability law. The latest incident is the third instance of a bus driver being arrested for hitting a pedestrian who was crossing the street since August, when the law became effective.

One argument that the bus drivers union is putting forward is that the design of the bus creates a blind spot, which makes it difficult for drivers to see certain areas, with the way that the mirrors are presently positioned. Interestingly, the bus drivers never seemed concerned with this supposed safety issue prior to facing the possibility of being arrested. MTA spokespersons have since commented that bus drivers are trained to compensate for the blind spots, presumably by looking, like every other driver has to do while changing lanes. Moreover, the claim that the MTA buses have a condition, which predisposes bus drivers to hitting pedestrians, who have the right of way, opens the possibility of negligent maintenance and design cases against the MTA. In any event, if true, the law has already had a positive effect by exposing a problem which apparently has gone undisclosed and uncorrected for years.

Interestingly, one of the supporters of immunizing bus drivers is Manhattan’s representative Charlie Rangel. One has to wonder whether politicians like Rangel are more concerned with the public safety of their constituents or protecting campaign contributions from labor unions like the bus driver’s union. While some assert that the law should not apply to those who are working, our bus accident attorneys to the coin is that professional drivers should be held to a higher standard, so the law should apply to them.

 
The Law Offices of Michael H. Joseph